The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

The Canadian Connection

  • Britain's declaration of war in 1914 automatically meant that her colonies were also at war. Canadian Premier Sir Robert Borden ordered the mobilization of a Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) to serve in Europe. Men from the Canadian regular army and militia volunteered to serve, as did thousands of civilians. Among those who joined up were many from Britain and Ireland who had immigrated to Canada. A huge mobilization centre was built at Valcartier, Quebec. Here 32,000 volunteers gathered and began training. On 3 October 1914 the CEF sailed for England in one of the largest convoys ever assembled up to that time. After further training in England, the 1st Division landed in Continental Europe in February 1915. The 2nd Division arrived in September 1915. Both divisions formed the Canadian Army Corps. The 3rd Division arrived between December 1915 and March 1916 and the 4th Division in August 1916.

  • More than 595,000 men enlisted in Canada, of whom 418,000 served overseas. In all, 258 battalions of the CEF were formed during the war. Conscription was introduced in the winter of 1917/18, but this accounted for fewer than 86,000 of the men who served. Canada sustained 210,000 casualties in the war, including more than 56,500 dead. Canadian soldiers were paid almost 5/- (five shillings) per day, as against British troops who were given 1s. 2d. (one shilling and two pence). The Canadians were excellent soldiers. In April 1917 they secured the first major allied victory on the Western Front when they captured Vimy Ridge, probably the strongest of the German positions in northern France. The last allied soldier to be killed in the First World War was a Canadian. Private Price was shot by a German sniper at 10.58 a.m., two minutes before the agreed cease-fire, while holding flowers given to him by Belgian civilians.

  • There were 14 Canadian soldiers and one nurse on the Leinster. Only five of them survived.

  • Private Michael Biggane of the Canadian Army Service Corps came from Bonmahon, Co. Waterford. He was probably among those who joined up following emigration to Canada. His mother lived in Waterford. So it was likely that he was visiting her while on leave. The visit cost him his life. He is buried in Ballylaneen (St. Anne's ) Roman Catholic Church, Co. Waterford, Ireland.

  • Lieutenant Donald Gwyn (22), from Sherbrooke, Quebec was a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. The regiment went to France with the 1st Division in February 1915. Gwyn was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Having survived the horrors of the Western Front, he died on the Leinster. He is buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery: CE Can. Plot 1, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Nursing Sister Henrietta Mellett (39) was a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, attached to the 15th Canadian General Hospital. Mellett was from Co. Mayo and died on the Leinster. Her death notice in "The Irish Times" said that she was "murdered by the huns." She is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery: 410: A62, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Captain Edward Milne, on his way for a consultation at a London hospital, came on board the Leinster on crutches. Known to his family as Ned, Milne was born in Scotland. His family moved to Galway when he was six. Later in life he was a junior reporter on the staff of the Galway Express. Around 1909 he moved to Canada. Joining his brothers who had already settled there, he went into farming in British Columbia. On the outbreak of war he and his brothers joined the army. Ned joined the Mounted Rifles. He later transferred to an Alberta Regiment and sailed for England on 3 October 1914 as part of the first Canadian contingent. After further training in England, he landed in Continental Europe in February 1915 as a private in the 1st Division. He served on the Western Front throughout the war, rising to the rank of Captain and being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery. While recovering from wounds he came back to Ireland. Having survived the battlefield, he was lost while traveling on the Leinster for a consultation at a London hospital. His body was recovered and taken to Galway for burial.

  • There was a Canadian on the Leinster who had recently been discharged from the Canadian Army. The ancestors of Francis Edward Higgerty had come from Ireland, where their surname was probably Hegarty.

Francis Edward Higgerty

Frank Higgerty
Francis Edward Higgerty

Francis Edward Higgerty was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 22 April 1887, the son of Henry and Jane (McCormick) Higgerty. He was educated at St. Patrick's Boys' School and University of Ottawa, Ontario. As a law student he articled with barrister Edward P. Gleeson, Ottawa, and Hellmuth, Cattanach & Meredith, Toronto. He was called to the bar 22 September 1913, joined the firm of Chrysler & Bethune in September 1914 and entered into partnership with Francis H. Chrysler in November 1915. He was a member of the Carleton Lawn Tennis Club, Ottawa Rowing Club, Ottawa Reform Association, Young Mans Liberal Club of Ottawa and National Geographic Society of America. He enjoyed fishing, skating, skiing, shooting, sliding, and cross country walking. On 28 March 1918 he joined the 2nd Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Army. The battalion was an Officer Training Corps and Higgerty started with the rank of private. He was 5ft 10 ins in height, had blue eyes, black hair and a ruddy complexion. At some point during 1918 he applied for, and was granted, a commission in the British Army. He was discharged from the Canadian Army and sailed for England. Before taking up his commission he decided to visit Ireland. He was among those who were lost on the Leinster. He is buried in Ottawa (Notre Dame) Roman Catholic Cemetery: Sec. Z Lot 1677, Ontario, Canada.

Frank Higgerty's great great nephew, Will Lockhart, is the developer of this website.

Commemorative plaque of Canadian Soldier Sergeant Gavin Francis Andrew

Irish First World War Researcher Conor Dodd at the grave of Canadian Soldier Sergeant Gavin Francis Andrew.  He is holding Gavin Andrew’s commemorative plaque.   Commemorative plaque of Canadian Soldier Sergeant Gavin Francis Andrew.
Irish First World War Researcher Conor Dodd at the grave of Canadian Soldier Sergeant Gavin Francis Andrew.  He is holding Gavin Andrew’s commemorative plaque.   Commemorative plaque of Canadian Soldier Sergeant Gavin Francis Andrew.

Father lost on way to visit seriously wounded soldier son

The Reverend John R. Bartley LL. B. (Trinity College, Dublin) of the Presbyterian Church, Tralee, County Kerry was on his way to visit his seriously wounded son when he was lost on the R.M.S. Leinster.  His body was recovered and buried on 15 October 1918 in the Protestant Plot, near the main path, in the New Cemetery, Tralee, County Kerry.

Sergeant William Bartley, 150790, 52nd Battalion (Manitoba Regiment) Canadian Expeditionary Force, died of his wounds in a military hospital in Tooting, south London, on 16 October 1918.  William Bartley was born on 2 February 1893 at Carnone, County Donegal.  He was employed as a bank clerk at the time he enlisted in the Canadian Army on 26 August 1915 at Portage Le Prairie, Manitoba.  He was 5 feet 7 inches in height, had dark complexion, blue eyes and dark hair.  He is buried in the same grave as his father.

(Grateful thanks to Dave Donatelli for the newspaper clipping with photograph of Sergeant William Bartley). 

Sergeant William Bartley




The sinking

Why the R.M.S. Leinster was sunk?

How the sinking jeopardized peace talks

Why was the R.M.S. Leinster forgotten?

The City of Dublin Steam Packet Company

The Canadian Connection

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